That’s how Air Forces Central Commander Lt. Gen. Gary North described the efforts of the various Air Force teams that played a role in enabling the service to field the first MC-12W manned intelligence-reconnaissance-surveillance aircraft in Southwest Asia earlier this week, leading to its first combat mission on Wednesday from Joint Base Balad, Iraq. “They’ve satisfied very ambitious objectives and done it alongside our industry partners to achieve combat-urgent requests in a superb fashion, from initial contracts to combat sorties inside eight months,” North said in a Balad release June 11. He said the MC-12W will enhance and complement the US and coalition “ISR umbrella” that supports operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and will integrate seamlessly into the scheme of maneuver for processing, exploiting, and disseminating its signals intelligence and streaming video feeds to support warfighters at all levels. The Air Force began a program last April to acquire 37 MC-12Ws on an accelerated schedule to bolster overhead ISR coverage in Afghanistan and Iraq. It accepted the first MC-12W from manufacturer Beechcraft in March. While the goal was to field the first MC-12W in the war theater in April, this subsequently slipped to June, a delay that apparently angered Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The Air Force has said dealing with a variety of configurations in integrating the sensors on the initial aircraft has been the holdup.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.